How your Will is affected by your marriage or divorce


8 September 2017

By Farhad Islam
In an ideal world, all adults at whatever age and stage of their lives should make a Will. If the worst happens this means that your loved ones would be able to deal with your estate in accordance with your wishes and feelings. 
You may have made a Will when you bought your first property and then put it away and forgot about it. You now find yourself planning your wedding but, did you know that once you marry your Will is no longer valid. 
You must, therefore, update your Will and this could be done before or after you marry. If you like to be organised then you could update your Will before you marry.
The words "in contemplation /anticipation of marriage" need to be within your Will in order for it to still be valid after you are married. 
If you do not update your Will before or after marriage should the unfortunate happen and you die, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy. This is not always an easy process for loved ones left behind. Also, your estate may not be distributed in the way that you would have wanted. 
For whatever reason sadly not all marriages last. Your divorce however also has an impact on your Will. In contrast to marriage, your decree absolute (final court order confirming divorce) does not render your Will invalid. Divorce means that any clause in your Will relating to your ex-spouse takes effect as if he or she had died on the date your decree became absolute. In short, any gift made to your spouse falls back into your residuary estate for the benefit of the residuary beneficiaries.
You may think that this is fine but, problems arise when you leave everything to your spouse. The effect is that your substitute beneficiaries will inherit your estate in accordance with your Will.  
Further complications arise if you have young children and/ or your Will includes Trusts and you have appointed your spouse as a Trustee. These are all things which need to be thought about after divorce. 
It is wise to review your Will upon divorce and ensure that your Will reflects your current circumstances. You do not have to wait until your decree is made absolute to amend your Will. Again you can create a Will in contemplation/ anticipation of divorce. This is an important point to consider as sometimes people die during divorce proceedings. If your Will has not been changed then it means that your spouse will inherit your estate in accordance with your Will despite having issued divorce proceedings. This might not be what you want especially in litigious divorces.  
If you need help or advice in relation to creating a Will the Private Client team at Gepp & Sons would be very happy to assist you. Additionally, if you require assistance on divorce or any matrimonial matters please contact our friendly Family team on 01245 228127.
This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.